17 Smells That Your Dog Can’t Stand

Dogs are known for their incredible sense of smell, being able to sniff out their favorite foods from a mile away. While this heightened sense can be a benefit, it unfortunately also means that certain odors can be overwhelmingly unpleasant for them. In this article, we’ll uncover 17 smells that dogs generally can’t stand.

Household Cleaners

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Have you noticed that your dog seems to disappear when you’re cleaning the house? This is because cleaners often contain ammonia and chlorine, which emit harsh scents. These chemicals can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation in dogs, so they instinctively avoid these smells for their own safety.


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The high acidity and sugar content in citrus fruits like lemons and oranges create a strong scent, one that dogs tend to avoid. Citrus essential oils can be harmful to a dog’s nasal mucosa and dogs typically steer clear of very acidic foods that might harm their stomach lining.


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Mothballs contain harmful chemicals like naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene. As shared by PetMD, “The fumes produced by both naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene can be very irritating to the nose, eyes and lungs.” Dogs tend to keep away from them due to their strong scent, but on the occasion that they’re ingested, they can cause serious issues like liver damage and seizures.

Peppercorns and Hot Peppers

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Piperine in peppercorns and capsaicin in hot peppers irritate dogs’ nasal passages, so it’s not unusual for dogs to steer clear of these. In fact, these scents can actually be used to deter dogs from certain areas. However, be aware that the ingestion of these spices can upset a dog’s stomach.

Pine Oil

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It may smell nice to us humans, but many dogs dislike the smell of pine and its oil. The smell itself often keeps dogs away from pine-scented items, which is great if you’re trying to protect something from your dog’s curious mouth, but keep in mind that some pine varieties can cause vomiting and diarrhea in our furry friends.

Tobacco Smoke

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The smell of tobacco and its smoke can be overwhelming for dogs. According to the County of Los Angeles Public Health, “All pets can develop breathing problems, eye irritation, and skin irritation when exposed to smoke and smoke residue.” It’s best to avoid exposing dogs to tobacco smoke to protect their health.


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The scent of potpourri, both dry and liquid forms, can be too intense for dogs. So, it’s important to use potpourri in well-ventilated areas and in moderation. Ensure your dog isn’t confined in a room with strong potpourri scents.

Perfume and Cologne

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Perfume and cologne products contain various scents and oils that dogs seem to find unappealing, so you may want to avoid close contact with your dog immediately after applying fragrances. Perfumes and colognes can also mask your natural scent, which dogs use for identification.


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Does your dog ever leave the room when you’re sitting down with a glass of wine? This may be because alcohol, including rubbing alcohol, emits a strong odor that dogs dislike. Ingesting alcohol can cause health issues like vomiting and seizures in dogs, so be mindful of using alcohol-containing products around your dog.

Fresh Herbs

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Fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, and thyme may smell enticing to us, but they have strong scents that repel dogs. So, if you’re looking to keep your dogs away from a certain area of your garden, you may want to consider planting these herbs. Keep in mind that some dogs might not react negatively to all herbs, however, especially mint.


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As said by Wag!, “Vinegar is one of the things that just seem to drive dogs away. It has an acrid smell that is not particularly appealing to humans, but it is a natural smell which your dogs definitely won’t like.” Diluted vinegar can be used safely as a repellent in certain areas but be mindful of the vinegar smell lingering in your environment.

Nail Polish and Acetone

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The smell of nail polish and acetone-based removers is too strong for dogs, and the chemicals in these products can irritate a dog’s nose and respiratory system. It’s best to ensure your dog is not near these products while you’re using them.


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Not only does garlic smell unappealing to dogs, but it also contains thiosulfate, which is harmful to them. Ingesting garlic can cause red blood cell damage and anemia in canines. Though garlic juice is sometimes used as a repellent, it poses ingestion risks, so we don’t suggest doing so.


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A popular scent among humans, eucalyptus irritates dogs’ nasal passages and can cause discomfort. It can also cause eye irritation in dogs. You’ll find that eucalyptus is often utilized in cleaning products and deodorizers, so keep in mind that you should use it cautiously around your pets.

Spicy Food

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While your dog may try to devour your spicy food regardless, they don’t typically like the scent of spice. Spices activate nociceptors, causing discomfort to dogs, and they tend to steer clear of areas with strong spicy odors.


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“Ammonia is highly toxic for your pet, causing irritation and burning to the throat, nose, stomach and respiratory tract,” as per BC SPCA. Its potent smell is both overwhelming and harmful to dogs, and while it can effectively repel them, it should not be used as a deterrent.


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While the low level of chlorine in swimming pools isn’t enough to put a dog off, the strong smell of undiluted chlorine or cleaning products containing chlorine is offensive to their noses. The fumes can irritate a dog’s respiratory system and skin, so use baby gates or isolation in another room to protect your pet during cleaning.

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